Budapest, George Russell stole the show Saturday at the Hungarian Grand Prix by earning his first career pole and first of the season for Mercedes — on the same day F1 champion and current points leader Max Verstappen qualified a season-worst 10th.
Russell screamed in celebration after a fast final qualifying lap helped him beat Ferrari drivers Carlos Sainz Jr. and Charles Leclerc, reports AP.
The Mercedes pace was surprising since Russell claimed Mercedes’ second practice was “disastrous” on Friday, when Russell was about a full second slower than Leclerc’s leading time.
Verstappen unleashed expletives as his qualifying bid was undone. He struggled with grip then complained of having “no power … nothing works” on his second attempt.
The Hungaroring track, nestled amid rolling hills just outside of Budapest, dried out somewhat for afternoon qualifying following a huge downpour during the third practice.
Leclerc — who leads F1 with seven poles this season — crashed while leading the French GP last Sunday to hand Verstappen a win that gave the Dutchman a 63-point lead over Leclerc in the standings.
But now Leclerc has an ideal chance to close the gap on Sunday on one of F1’s hardest tracks for passing.
Verstappen’s Red Bull teammate Sergio Perez had a disappointing session and started from 11th place.
Lando Norris of McLaren qualified fourth followed by Esteban Ocon —last year’s winner — Alpine teammate Fernando Alonso and Mercedes driver Lewis Hamilton, who is F1’s record holder with 103 poles.
Russell, who replaced Valtteri Bottas at Mercedes this year, landed his seat in part by overperforming for struggling backmarker Williams last year with an incredible performance in the wet to qualify second for the Belgian GP.
After a first pole, the British driver is eyeing a first win. Russell has what it takes to reach the top, Mercedes team principal Toto Wolff believes.
Source: Bahrain News Agency